friends, marriage, things to love about Ohio

Scenes From An Ohio Road Trip

Moments after dropping Sam and Leo off with Erin’s parents, as we pulled out of the neighborhood and considered that we would now have the next twenty-eight hours without kids, Ben turned to Erin and said, “To quote Dr. Leo Marvin in What About Bob?: Free.”

——————–

LEG 1: CINCINNATI TO YELLOW SPRINGS (VIA KETTERING)

“So how do you pronounce his name?” Erin asked, holding Ben’s copy of Between the World and Me.

“It’s Tah-Nuh-HA-see Coates. The ‘Hi’ sounds like a ‘Ha,'” Ben said. “Wait, are you going to read my book before I do?”

“Sure. You’re driving.”

“But I get to read it tonight when we get to the hotel.”

“No. Because I’ll be reading it.”

“But it’s my book. I just bought it.”

“And I’m reading it.”

“This is the, what — fourth book you’ve stolen from me?”

“Oh, that’s not true. Name them.”

“Meghan Daum’s book.”

“OK, that’s one.”

The Dark Path.”

“Two.”

“Oh, The Lifeboat, last summer.”

“No, you stole that from me.”

We passed the newly reconstructed “Touchdown Jesus” off I-75. It was not looking so touchdowny anymore.

“I can’t remember the last visitation I went to,” Erin said.

“I think mine was my Uncle Bud,” Ben said. “I still remember how he looked in the coffin. It was him, but it wasn’t, you know?”

“Where did our summer go? And why did we each bring four books? By the time we get to the hotel it’ll be at least ten o’clock.”

“And there’ll be HGTV.”

“Right. Who were we kidding?”

There was construction outside Dayton and we missed our exit. When we arrived at the funeral home, our friend Scott was there to greet us. Meghan, his wife, was feeding their five-month-old. Life goes on even in tragedy.

More of our friends arrived, and each new arrival made Meghan smile and then cry. We stood around in a circle, witnesses to a passing.

——————–

“We’re going to get in late, aren’t we?” Erin said back in the car. “Also, I’m so hungry I’m going to start gnawing on the upholstery.”

“It’s all right,” Ben said. “It’s a road trip. We’ll get there before ‘Property Brothers.'”

“But where are we going to eat?”

“Anywhere. You pick.”

“Have you ever been to Yellow Springs?”

“No. Let’s do it. Tell me where to go.”

“Take this exit. It’s twelve miles on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road.”

As we drove, Erin mentioned that her last meal in Yellow Springs had been with an old boyfriend, but that it was a very nice meal.

“So you’re saying I need to prove myself tonight?” Ben responded. “On our anniversary dinner?”

“I’m saying this is a chance for me to redeem my Yellow Springs experience.”

The main drag in Yellow Springs is Xenia Avenue, and assorted hipsters and hippies occupied the streets as we drove through. It seemed as though everyone was walking a dog.

We parked and walked around before stopping in the Winds Cafe. We looked at a sample menu while the maître d’ waited. “Plenty of tables tonight,” he said.

“I get worried when they don’t list the prices,” Erin whispered.

“Oh, let me get you a real menu!” the maÎtre d’ said.

We considered. It was getting late, and a meal there would taken at least an hour, putting us in Mansfield at close to eleven.

“Let’s do it,” Erin finally said.

“Oh good!” The maÎtre d’ snapped to action, getting us two more menus before realizing we already had two. He sat us by the window.

“Are you going to be Whole30 tonight?” Erin asked as we looked over the menu.

Ben hemmed and hawed. It was day twenty-one of a very loose Whole30.

“Maybe. Probably. Maybe.”

“C’mon,” Erin said. “Live a little.” She reminded him of the numerous lapses he had already suffered over the past three weeks. “But if you tempt me when I do mine,” she added, drawing a line across her throat.

The waiter arrived. We ordered the Provençal Whole Branzini. Ben ordered a Rhinegeist on tap.

“Good for you,” Erin said. “Let’s document this.”

She took a picture and, before uploading it to Instagram, pondered a good hashtag before settling on “#Neurohiogetaway.”

When the fish arrived, it was the whole Branzini — head and eyes and all.

“We have to eat the cheek meat,” Erin said. “You know the Amy Tan essay, right? ‘Fish Cheeks’?”

“I do not.”

“The best meat is in the cheeks. Let’s save it for last.”

A man walked by the window and saw our meal. He stopped, pointed at the fish, then at us, grinning like an idiot. We smiled and waved. He kept pointing and grinning.

“Yes, it’s a fish,” Ben said.

He nodded and finally kept walking.

While we celebrated our anniversary meal (a week early), the ladies two tables over were sharing their divorce stories. We were the only ones in the room, so their conversation filtered over to us easily. We talked so we wouldn’t feel like eavesdroppers.

“Does this cleanse the ex palate?” Ben asked. “Have we redeemed Yellow Springs for you?”

“Actually, I think this was the same restaurant,” Erin said. “But it was a different name then.”

“Well, we made the right choice then.”

It was nine when we finished. The Branzini was all spindly bone and head (minus the cheeks) when the waiter took it. We ordered decafs to go. The waiter returned with two decafs in mugs. “We didn’t have any travel cups left, but I figured you still wanted these,” he said.

The coffee was tepid. “We give our kids warmer baths than this,” Erin said.

The waiter returned and offered to brew us a new pot. We declined, and he took it off the check.

We left the restaurant as dusk was settling. “That was the kind of meal that’s really good but still leaves you hungry,” Ben said. We had Whole30-friendly banana chips and cashews in the car; most would be gone over the next two hours. “Mansfield or bust,” Erin said, and we were off.

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LEG 2: YELLOW SPRINGS TO MANSFIELD

We arrived at the hotel at 11:37. A man came out of his room as we tried to get our key to work. “You brought a box fan to a hotel!” he said. “Who brings a box fan to a hotel?”

“Apparently we do,” Erin said. We exchanged looks. Drunk? Serial killer?

He was approaching us as if our arrival was exactly what he’d been waiting for. “Apparently! I can’t get over that. What do you need a fan for?” He was closing on us.

“We like the white noise,” Erin said. The key was still not working. The moment was slowly turning into that movie scene when the good guy fumbles with the car keys as a deranged killer pursues.

“There’s an app for that!” he said. He was ten feet away.

The door opened. We were in. “Oh, really?” Erin said, sliding in and beginning to shut the door.

“Yeah!” he said, finally at our door. It was still open, and he was standing right in front of it. “Like three of them!”

“Well, we’ll have to check that out,” Erin said.

“You do that! Nice rooms, huh?”

“Very nice!” Erin said. “Good night!” She closed the door.

“Mansfield’s … friendly,” she said, recovering herself.

“But not lethal!” Ben said.

We found HGTV. Jonathan was giving Shannon and Darl the bad news that there was asbestos in the walls of their fixer-upper. Soon he would tell them they needed to get rid of a beloved clawfoot bathtub as well. Also that the HVAC needed to be replaced. Neither Shannon nor Darl was thrilled to get this news.

“What’s his name?” Erin asked. “Darr?”

“I think it’s ‘Darl,'” Ben said. “Like in Faulkner.”

“Darl,” Erin said. “That’s unfortunate.”

“They’re so weird-looking.”

“Shannon and Darl?”

“No, what’s-their-faces.”

“Jonathan and Drew.”

“Yes, they are.”

After the show, Erin took out A Farewell To Arms.

“You’re going to start your summer reading now, at midnight, in Mansfield, Ohio?” Ben asked.

“Yeah, who am I kidding,” Erin said, throwing the book on the floor.

“Show the kids the clip where Bradley Cooper throws the book out the window,” Ben said. “That’ll be their favorite part of class discussion.”

“Noted,” Erin said. She turned off the lights. We slept terribly.

——————–

LEG 3: MANSFIELD TO CLEVELAND

Erin punched in the address for the Cleveland Clinic as soon as we get in our car. Siri chirped back, “Starting route to Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis,” as we pulled back onto I-71 North.

“Thanks, Siri,” Erin said. She mimicked Siri’s voice. “Starting route to Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease which occasionally causes you to go blind in your left eye.”

Ben chimed in. “Starting route to Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis, which you still have and can only get worse by the time you arrive.”

“Starting route to Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis,” Erin said, “which just all around really sucks for you.”

We arrived at the Cleveland Clinic an hour before our appointment. The waiting room had a clean, sleek, professional appearance, its inhabitants the usual snapshot of humanity caught in medical limbo. Two boys who did not appear to have parents were sitting side-by-side playing on iPads. The only magazines available for browsing were Fortune and Bloomberg Businessweek, two of the least browsable magazines ever printed.

They ran a tight ship at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis. A nurse, Georgia, ran vitals on Erin and logged her medications, then asked her to complete a timed test that involved moving pegs in and out of a square wood block. She then took us back to the waiting room, but it was less than five minutes before Dr. Cohen himself came out to greet us. He was polite, efficient, calm and reassuring. He agreed with the diagnosis, and talked about the growing number of MS medications. “Overall, I think you’re doing incredibly well given everything I’ve seen today,” he said — which was worth the drive itself, just to hear those words.

In the waiting room, we scheduled our follow-up appointment for February. Because of concerns for privacy, each scheduler is separated by a partition, and the next in line must wait outside behind a glass door. Nevertheless, we could still hear the woman on the other side of the partition very clearly when she said, upon being asked how her day was going, “Fine, except for the open sore on my butt.”

——————–

LEG 4: CLEVELAND TO MANSFIELD

We stopped for lunch at the Chipotle in Middleburg Heights. The line was out the door. We watched as two parents tried desperately to corral their kids into finishing their meals. Eventually the father simply picked up the younger boy, who looked to be Leo’s age, and carried him out like a sack of mulch, if the sack was also squirming and screaming bloody murder.

Despite this scene, we both commented that we really missed our boys.

Back on I-71, Ben asked, “Have you ever been to the Ohio State Reformatory before?”

“Are you asking if I’ve done prison time?” Erin responded.

“It’s where they shot Shawshank Redemption. Should we stop?”

“Sure. It’s a road trip.”

We pulled up to the now-defunct prison, the music from that famous tracking shot playing in our heads. “Will they have a bathroom?” Erin asked. “Oh, I think those are still in operation,” Ben replied. Inside we took the Shawshank tour. Red was our tour guide.

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LEG 5: MANSFIELD TO CINCINNATI

“Funny how you can drive seven hours to Missouri but you need a break from Cleveland to Cincinnati,” Erin said. We had traded places after gassing up outside Grove City.

“What are you implying, exactly?”

“That you don’t want me to finish my book,” Erin said, gesturing toward Between the World and Me.

My book, thank you,” Ben replied.

“This has been a strange trip,” Erin said. “We bookended an anniversary getaway with a visitation and a neurology appointment.”

“Then went to a prison,” Ben added.

It was raining when we made it back to Cincinnati. Everyone — Sam, Leo, Nana, Papa — were sitting peacefully on the couch when we arrived to pick them up. Either the scene had been staged for us to suggest the last twenty-eight hours had been an idyllic time on the homefront, or it was just another instance of grandparenting magic. “They were great,” Erin’s parents said. We found that hard to believe, but we were grateful.

The trip marked the end of summer for us. The beginning of the school year is like reaching the peak of a roller coaster, right before it makes its first stomach-twisting drop. Once the ride starts, there’s no getting off until June. In six months, we’ll make the trek back up I-71, by which point, hopefully, Erin will be stabilized on Copaxone, with no additional relapses; both of us will be settled into new teaching gigs at new schools; Sam will be, in small but significant ways, on his way to being more mature and ready for kindergarten next fall; and Leo will be doing what Leo does, which is generally regarding everything around him with the two-year-old amazement of seeing it all for the first time. Until then, we await the start of another school year with both excitement and unease, anticipation and anxiety. And, of course, the hope none of us come down with open sores on our butt.

faith, marriage, parenthood

Big Paws For Doing Big Things

When I (Erin) think of things I’m afraid of, I think of Big Things: America’s troublesome food system. Money crap. Racism and Bullying.  The fact that I’ve switched jobs twice in two years. How my kids will end up in therapy and resent me. When my Multiple Sclerosis will strike again. Why chin hairs keep growing and multiplying. Why I can’t get more than 20 likes on any single Instagram post (follow me! @erinvore). Whether or not I smell better when I use my husband’s deodorant.

Like I said, big things.

I’m also afraid of a blank page. I’ve always loved to write, always dreamed of writing Big Things. Like Pickles in Esther Averill’s The Fire Cat, one of my boys’ favorite books, I have Big Paws and am meant to do Big Things.

We are all Pickles.

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I’m just afraid my Big Things aren’t worth saying. I’ve spent so much time not writing the right things because I’m so worried I’m not writing the right things. It’s a terrible, vicious cycle.

But.

I just finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s fiercely good book of essays, Carry On, Warrior. GDM is one messed up lady. She admits freely, and without shame, how messed up she is: former longtime bulimic, boozer, drug-user, casual sex doer. Those rhyme. Kind of cute until you think about what all of those things mean.

She also knows, though, that those things, those dark spots — skeletons in the closet, things that can suck the life out of you because of fear and worry and shame (not to mention real, tangible consequences like pregnancy and disease) — are not her because she is made new in Christ. She is loved the heck out of by Jesus. In fact, He’s thrilled to call her daughter, to be in love with this messed up lady He’s created.

I had a more than a couple light bulbs go off while reading her memoir:

  1. I am a messed up lady too. I spend a lot of my time making sure people don’t know I am messed up or know that I USED to be messed up, but now I go to church and host small group and read my Bible almost every morning, and am doing the best I can with my two, crazy boys, and eat as cleanly as I can (except for wine and night-time snacks), and buy organic milk and eggs, and am quick to forgive, and exercise moderately, and take my medicine diligently, and try to send belated birthday cards because I almost always never remember special days on the actual day. But, like I said, I am messed up. I’ve done things — Big Things — I’m not proud of, and it got me thinking how much I really believe, like deep down believe, that I really am redeemed. I think my thought life often doesn’t match up with my out loud life. Out loud, I proclaim (such a religious verb) that I am reborn, a new creation, made new in Christ, but my insides still feel shame, sadness, regret. Melton says more than once that she thinks God basically digs her. On the one hand, really? Like, really digs you? Digs me? Isn’t that a little cocky? But I think she’s right. He made me and he digs me and it’s high time I start believing it, not just saying it to the right people at the right time. She said that “the during is just as holy as the after.” I need to stop waiting for the after to know and believe I’m holy and good and loved. It will always be during.
  2. I want to be honest. I want to start writing True Things. I want to stop pretending I need to write one way to represent me and my family well. I want to be a truth teller and wild lover of things God wants me to love, which, you know, is a LOT of things.
  3. I’ve spent a lot of my life comparing myself to women instead of working together with women. GDM operates in the latter. I want to as well. No more comparison. No more shame. Shame, go away. Let us be gifts to one another.
  4. I want to write. I am in love with good books and I am constantly wishing I could write something like those people, those lucky few, can write. News flash: I can! Stop waiting until something amazing happens or I have an amazing story to tell to give myself permission to write and just do it! So I am. Here I go. No stoppin’ me now. And I do have amazing stories, like the fact that I am married to an incredible man who is bursting with creativity and wisdom and integrity, or the fact that Sam drew a dinosaur this morning and then said, “Look, Mommy, he’s eating a chicken stick and going poo poo and pee.” A T-Rex eating chicken and defecating and urinating at the same time? Sounds amazing to me.

Or the fact that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a week before Christmas and haven’t completely crumbled yet! (Also, bonus, I can see out of my left eye again, a miracle I daily consider.)

At this point I should probably admit that I’ve checked my phone about four times to see if anyone’s liked my latest Instagram post. And I have not one, but two journals on my table at the coffee shop and I haven’t opened either one. Failings continue. So this is probably a good time to start listing everything I hate about myself so I can repent of that and move on to love. Put on my love glasses, so to speak.

  1. I don’t like that my face is asymmetrical. I think the left side of my face is prettier than the right side. That’s messed up. The asymmetry (trust me, I’ve spent a LOT of time studying my facial asymmetry) makes it difficult for me to wear aviators because one of my ears is slightly above the other ear. Glasses look a little crooked on me.
  2. I walk into a store and I want to buy the whole store. Ben and I are taking Financial Peace University right now, which has us saying repeatedly on Thursday evenings that we wish we would’ve taken it when we were in our teens, or twenties, or before any time but Right Now. Better late than never. Anyway, FPU has me thinking about money and I actually get a little buzz by not buying shit right now, by saving it all and carefully pulling out real cash when I need to buy things we need like milk, chicken sticks, and diapers (though we’re toying with potty training Leo to save on this one). But then it’s Sam’s birthday and I walk into Kohl’s because maybe they’ll have a cheaper Eeyore than the Disney store (they don’t), and I see all of the stuff I don’t have in my house and I. Want. It. All. All of a sudden, contentment disappears and greed and desire and coolness trickles in. I want it. I want to buy it. I want a lot of crap. I don’t like that.
  3. HGTV practically ruins me. We don’t have cable (or even Netflix — Dave Ramsey made us cancel it), but when I go to the dentist or to Pennsylvania to visit my in-laws, we watch HGTV. If watching HGTV could produce intoxication in people, I would be fall-down drunk every time I get my teeth cleaned or go to the Keystone state. I especially love “Fixer Upper.” So good. And I go home from the dentist or PA and walk in our house and start mentally demolishing and redesigning with imaginary money we don’t have and the discontentment begins again. I really don’t like that.
  4. I don’t like that sometimes I hear one of my kids needing me and I pretend not to so that Ben will take care of getting milk for Leo, wiping Sam, making eggs for everyone, cleaning up a spill. I despise that in myself.
  5. And there’s this one time at a Starbucks while talking to someone I love that I just totally lost my shit at that person because I was hurting and sad and couldn’t see past my own hurt and sadness. I hate that I did that.

There’s more, but I think I’ll save those things for more truth telling later.  I’m excited that, at the very least, I believe a little more deeply that God digs me.

This summer has been magical and wonderful for a couple mighty reasons — we’re all home as a family, our boys are finally playing together and are so much fun when they’re sweet, and good, and fun. We’ve been dreaming of great and wonderful things we might do together and feel God’s blessing about. We’re excited for new things on the horizon with the upcoming school year as English teachers in new schools. We’re excited to create. And right now I need to go to other big things like thank Ben for giving me the morning off to read and write and compulsively check my Instagram account, and play Legos with Sam, and renovate more rooms of our house in my head, and tuck in tiny Leo feet for naptime.

Those Big Things are the best things.

[PICKLES PHOTO COURTESY OF PINTEREST]
marriage

Scenes From A (Receding) Marriage

We celebrated our seventh anniversary yesterday. On her Facebook page, Erin wrote, “Seven years ago today my ‘something blue’ was royal blue eyeliner. Thanks, Ben Vore, for making me your wife in spite of some serious errors in judgement on my part. You’re a real stand-up guy.” The last line is one of our little in-jokes, from a terrible movie, The International, in which Naomi Watts, who is supposed to be a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails Manhattan attorney, says, with all the venom-spitting ferocity she can muster, “You’re a real stand-up guy, Artie!” (The same movie has Clive Owen say, to a man who has just been fatally shot, “Don’t you f—in’ die on me!” We laugh at this line for three reasons. 1) Because the man clearly will die on Clive Owen. 2) Because it’s not like he has a choice in the matter — he’s been fatally shot. And 3) Because “Don’t you die on me” apparently wouldn’t have sufficed. The superfluous effin’ really conveys more gravitas.)

In response to Erin’s post, Ben added his own: “Seven years ago today I had a full head of hair. Erin Beers Vore married me that day. About six years and ten months ago today, my hair began falling out. Thanks, Erin, for making me your husband. You’ve always had great timing.”

We kid you not, dear reader. It was instantaneous. The minute we said “I do,” Ben’s hair started uprooting itself, going West young man, or in this case South, migrating to his shoulders first and then chest, with patches setting up camp on his back soon thereafter. At first he bemoaned this quick, ruthless descent into baldness. But now, wizened by age and experience, he finds himself grateful: That his body held out as long as it did, just long enough to snatch a mate, the way male gibbons act all sensitive and caring until the ring is on the finger, and then, boom, they’re off swinging like idiots through the trees, puffing out their gullets like basketballs and scratching their privates like there’s no tomorrow. This guy knows.

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Anyway, we thought it’d be fun to document the migration of Ben’s hair over the course of our marriage. Well, one of us thought it’d be fun. Enjoy!

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The night we got engaged. December 19, 2003.

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Italy, 2004. Still going strong!

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One more so we can savor this before it goes downhill.

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Our wedding. August 14, 2004. Ben’s hairline breathes a huge sigh of relief.

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Ben, the morning of August 15, 2004.

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Year three. Maine, 2007. What’s the hat hiding? (Or, not hiding?)

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Year four. Cat’s out of the bag.

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Year five. The Snuggie could not mask a receding hairline.

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Nic flaunts his gorgeous mane.

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Year six. Sam arrives.

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“Good one, dad! Tell me another fairy tale about when you had hair!”

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“You’re a real stand-up gibbon, gibbon.”

family, marital tension, marriage

Did We Or Didn’t We?

One of the recurring little arguments in our marriage is whether or not we watched The Last Temptation of Christ together. Erin says yes; Ben no. “I distinctly remember sitting on our futon in our apartment on Westlawn watching it with someone else,” Erin says. “Then you were watching it with another man,” Ben says. “Yeah, I called my secret boyfriend and said, ‘Hey, feel like coming over to my husband’s house and watching The Last Temptation of Christ with me?'”

As evidence, Ben cites his journal, in which he obsessively (Erin may not choose so kind a word) records any books or films he has read or watched. Scanning back through the early years of our marriage in Nashville, there is no record of The Last Temptation of Christ. (There is, however, The Spanish Prisoner, which Erin claims she never watched. “Yes you did, remember?” Ben says. “It had Steve Martin and Campbell Scott and Campbell Scott thought he was going crazy.” “I have never seen that film,” Erin says. “Why would I have written it down in my journal?” Ben asks. “Why would I have written it down in my journal?” Erin says in a higher-pitched, whiny voice: the game, set, match of any elementary school argument.)

The nature of these arguments, and the reason they endure, is that they are essentially freed from any determinative fact. Evidence from one party that is seen as infallible (Ben’s journal) is seen by the other side as highly suspect if not irrelevant (or simply downright erroneous). There are only conflicting eyewitness accounts and a hung jury. And the case can always be retried. It’s like a “Law & Order” repeat in which both sides reiterate the exact same arguments and it ends with no resolution. Then it’s on again the following week.

We have only been married six years, which is not nearly as much time for memories to entrench and fossilize as, say, thirty or forty years. If we can’t remember things correctly now, how will our memories — the shared understanding of the way our story happened — ever improve? The answer is they won’t. Rather than fret about this, however, we’re trying to make peace with it.

There is also always the chance of resolution, of one party finally acceding to the other and saying, “Yes, yes, you’re right, it happened the way you say it did.” My (Ben’s) parents for years recounted their sides of what came to be known as “The Deviled Eggs Incident.” The account more or less goes that my mom and her family, being good, down-home, Midwestern-bordering-on-Southern Baptists, had a thing for potlucks and deviled eggs. My dad did not, and so throughout their dating my father frequently declined to partake of what was, to his prospective in-laws, a supreme delicacy.

Fast forward to their first year of marriage when, at a party or on a cruise (depending on who’s telling the story; the mental picture of a cruise is what settles in my mind, though it is almost certain my parents never went on a cruise together), a young, somewhat attractive (again, how attractive depends on the teller) woman offered my parents a plate of deviled eggs. Dad took an egg; Mom went ballistic. (Some accounts have my dad saying, “Why yes, I love deviled eggs!”)

Throughout my childhood, this incident was recalled and hotly debated many times. It is why my brother and I were never once served deviled eggs. My mom pledged never to make them for her husband until he agreed to her account of the story and confessed his wrongdoing.

Then, not too long ago, the accounts suddenly merged. We were at a family reunion and there, on both of my parents’ plates, were deviled eggs. “Wait, what’s going on?” I said. They laughed. It was no big deal. My father had apparently pleaded forgiveness and fessed up, corroborating my mother’s account of the incident and since enjoying, on occasion, her deviled eggs when she decided to make them for parties or church potlucks. “Your mother makes very good deviled eggs,” he said, to which she responded, “That’s right, and I always have.” Whether my father finally remembered the incident differently or whether he just wanted to bury the past and make his wife happy, to this day I’m still not sure. Maybe he was simply hoping I was taking notes, and wouldn’t make the same mistake he did.

marriage, television

Rockin’ New Year’s Eve

6:58 p.m.

On a Friday

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ERIN: Well, Sam’s gone down and it’s New Year’s Eve. What should we do tonight?

BEN: We’ve got season five of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

ERIN: Put it in!

BEN: But “Wheel of Fortune” just came on.

ERIN: What does it say about us that we’ve watched “Wheel of Fortune” four nights this week?

BEN: It says that we’re ecstatic that we get Channel 9 downstairs now.

ERIN: I’m afraid it says a lot more than that.

[BEN and ERIN watch “Wheel of Fortune.” Neither one gets the final puzzle, which is “Background Music.”]

ERIN: “Sunny”?

BEN: But “Jeopardy” is next.

ERIN: Do you really like the taste of those cookies?

BEN: You mean these Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Ginger Cat Cookies For People? Why yes, yes I do.

ERIN: I don’t like the aftertaste.

BEN: What does it taste like?

ERIN: I’m not going to tell you because it’ll ruin it for you. Like when I said Miller Chill had vomit aftertaste.

BEN: You’re right. That ruined it for me.

ERIN: Alex is kind of being a jerk tonight.

BEN: He’s always a jerk. He thinks he’s so superior just because he has all the answers written on cards for him?

[One of the contestants blurts out a response without ringing in. ALEX TREBEK tells her she must ring in. She rings in and says the response. ALEX TREBEK says, “No.”]

ERIN: What a jerkface.

BEN: I hope he got coal in his stocking this year.

ERIN: Your toenails are disgusting. You really should trim them immediately.

BEN: I was waiting for you to make a comment. I’ll do it tomorrow.

ERIN: Why don’t you do it now?

BEN: Because if I do it now then I’ll have to say that I spent New Year’s Eve trimming my toenails.

ERIN: Your nasty caveman toenails.

BEN: They’re not that bad.

ERIN: When are we going to do our monthly budget for next year?

BEN: Should we do it now?

ERIN: Did you pay all the bills for December?

BEN: Yes. Except for the ones that came this week. Verizon and Duke.

ERIN: Well there’s still a lot of unopened mail in the bin.

BEN: If it’s a USAA or AmEx bill, you don’t need to worry. I pay those online.

ERIN: I always worry when I see unopened bills. Especially from October.

BEN: None of those are from October. Are they?

ERIN: If you pay them online, why do we still need paper statements?

BEN: I guess we don’t. I just like to have a back-up in case.

ERIN: In case you decide not to open it?

BEN: Have you been hanging out with Alex Trebek lately?

ERIN: This one has.

[SCOOTER THOMAS saunters into the room and sits down in front of the television, staring.]

BEN: What’s up with him?

ERIN: He’s got a man crush on Alex.

BEN: Or something.

ERIN: “Sunny” time?

BEN: Sure. I’ll pay bills while we do it.

[BEN and ERIN watch four episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” including “The Waitress is Getting Married,” an episode in which Dennis and Mac encourage Charlie to sign up for Match.com. While setting up his profile, they ask him what his favorite food is. “Milksteak.” Hobbies? “Magnets.” His likes? “Ghouls.”]

ERIN: Who are your favorite characters this season, and who are the most despicable? Go. And we all agree Frank is the most despicable, so he doesn’t count.

BEN: My favorite will always be Charlie. But I think this is a good season for Mac. I also really like Dee this season and think she’s become the most despicable.

ERIN: Everyone’s really terrible to her.

BEN: She’s really terrible to everyone. Like when she told her high school boyfriend who had acne that he’d grow up to look like Edward James Olmos.

ERIN: I like that she’s as despicable as the guys. Equal opportunity and everything.

BEN: What time is it?

ERIN: I think it’s ten or so. I’m kinda tired.

[BEN turns on ABC’s “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” KE$HA is performing and admonishes the crowd to “Make 2011 our bitch!”]

ERIN: Ummm…

BEN: We’re too old for this.

ERIN: Did you just say you’re too old for “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve”?

BEN: I’m too old for Ke$ha.

ERIN: I’m excited for next year, but I’m really going to miss this one. It was such a good year. I loved being pregnant. I love our Sammy.

BEN: I love our Sammy too. But he’ll be one next year! We’ll get to throw a birthday party!

ERIN: That will be fun. But he’ll also be one year closer to being a teenager.

BEN: Hey. Hey. Attitude check. What would Ke$ha say, huh?

ERIN: That’s the question we should be asking ourselves more often.

BEN: Does Dick Clark even make an appearance on his own show anymore?

ERIN: I want another baby.

BEN: We have a baby.

ERIN: I want ten babies.

BEN: You want ten babies? Are you for real?

ERIN [pointing at SCOOTER THOMAS]: I want him to stop judging us.

BEN: I don’t think that’s going to happen.

ERIN: Did you pay all of the bills?

BEN: Most of them.

ERIN: What about the unopened ones?

BEN: The paid unopened ones or the unpaid unopened ones?

[ERIN gives BEN the LOOK.]

BEN: I’ll pay everything tomorrow.

ERIN: Tomorrow is 2011.

BEN: Tomorrow is 2011. In the immortal words of Ke$ha–

ERIN: No, please.

BEN: No?

ERIN: I’m tired, honey.

BEN: Me too, sweet pea.

ERIN: Bedtime?

BEN: Let’s go to bed.

books, marriage

You Lost Me There, Rosecrans Baldwin

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Victor Aaron is the type of brilliant, industrious person who is smart enough to be a preeminent scientist in the field of Alzheimer’s research and dense enough not to know the first thing about his own heart. We all know someone like this — people long on specialized knowledge but short on social skills. What Rosecrans Baldwin does in his first novel, You Lost Me There, is to show us the world from the perspective of just such a person. The result is an amusing, sometimes exasperating, ultimately endearing book about a man who finally comes to terms with the death of his wife.

Sara, a screenwriter who wrote one big box office hit, died in a car crash three years earlier. Victor’s memory of their marriage is straightforward. In response to an assignment from their marriage counselor “to select five changes of direction in [y]our marriage, and describe each one on an index card,” Victor writes, My marriage went in a single direction, and then it stopped. It is years after Sara’s death that Victor discovers her note cards, which chronicle in great detail moments that Victor can barely recognize. He discovers entire dimensions of his marriage — jealousy, regret, forgiveness — that he hardly knew existed. Is his memory that fallible? “It’s, like, Alzheimer’s of the emotions,” is how one character diagnoses Victor, who fails to notice for months after Sara’s death that the garbage company hasn’t been picking up his trash.

While it’s a bit claustrophobic inside Victor’s head — he is surrounded primarily by women, lovers, confidants and lab partners, who trade places being perpetually baffled by his obtuseness — the novel, set on Mount Desert Island in Maine, has an open, airy feel, and we’ll confess to forgiving any of its flaws simply by virtue of my fond memories of Bar Harbor. Baldwin’s humor has a light, offbeat touch, whether it’s a prank involving deer antlers or a profane greeting card from mother to son.

“Your wife had died and everyone knew but you,” one of the women in his life tells Victor. The index cards are the impetus to finally confront the painful truth that his marriage was not nice, neat and tidy, the way he wants to remember it. Once the cracks begin to show in this false foundation of memory, Victor unravels in various humiliating and liberating ways, one of which involves public nudity and the Rockefellers. Baldwin has a soft landing for him, a smart man humbled by grief but restored by grace. The account of his public exposure appears in the Bar Harbor Times, leading his friends and co-workers to gossip and speculate about Victor’s crack-up. But he is saved by the knowledge that the Times doesn’t publish its police reports online, containing his shame within a small geographical range. “My indiscretion would be fodder for puppy cages for a few more weeks,” Victor muses, “and then would be gone.”

marital tension, marriage

Wife Locks Husband In Laundry Room

We’ve had our spats, but thankfully it never degenerated this far:

ARROU, France – An 80-year-old Frenchman was recovering in a state of shock in hospital on Saturday after being freed from a year locked in a laundry room by a wife half his age and her alleged lover.

French paramilitary police rescued the unnamed man from his home in the village of Arrou, southwest of Paris, on Wednesday, blinded, malnourished and physically abused by the ordeal at the hands of his own family.

“The victim suffered violence and ill-treatment,” local police commander Bruno Arviset told journalists. “The man ate twice a day, mostly pastries that were past their sell-by date.”

Wouldn’t this have been an interesting Jack Bauer enhanced interrogation technique? “Oh, I’m not going to torture you with these pliers. I’m going to torture you with a Mrs. Freshley Jumbo Honey Bun.”

His wife, 45, was jailed on Saturday pending trial after being charged with physical abuse, illegal detention and taking advantage of a vulnerable person, a judicial source said.

Investigators suspect the man’s family had a financial motive as around $650,000 dollars had been taken from the man’s bank accounts in recent months.

Thankfully, Ben does not have $650,000 in the bank.